I’ve been travelling and living out of hostels for over 10 months, and in that time I’ve spoken to countless people who’ve had their belongings stolen by proper thieves, or worse, other travellers. I’ve always considered myself careful, but listening to stories I’ve come to realise just how cheeky some people are – and how vigilant you have to be – even in the safest of places. So I’ve put together a list of steps you can follow to ensure your stuff stays as safe as possible.

  1. Always book hostels with lockers. Hostelworld/hostelbookers make it easy to find hostels with lockers. Booking a hostel without lockers is a double whammy – not only are your belongings left out in the open, but other people are also aware of this fact which makes it doubly as easy to take advantage.
  2. Try to book hostels that require ID on checkin. This is harder to follow than the above tip, as it isn’t always clear whether hostels do this or not. But a hostel that just lets anyone in off the street without as much as showing a hint of ID is asking for trouble.
  3. Always lock your valuables in your locker when you aren’t using them. Quite often I see laptops, phones, and chargers just sitting on people’s beds in empty rooms. It’s just not worth the risk, even if you’re only gone for 10 minutes. This even includes when you’re asleep – people have been known to sneak into open bags at night and take things.
  4. At night, keep your phone under your pillow, not next to the bed. And don’t leave it on charge overnight or when you aren’t in the room. Don’t even leave your charger in the room, lock that away too (they’re expensive to replace and easy to steal). As a little side note, I like to put my phone on Airplane mode at night to avoid EM radiation being emitted 5cm below my head all night. There’s no real proof that it causes cancer, but then again, I’m not using the phone at night anyway, so I’d rather be safe than sorry.
  5. Keep your clothes in your bag/backpack at all times, and keep it locked. People do steal clothes when left lying around (both on purpose or just by accident when frantically trying to gather belonging before checkout), and people do go through bags looking for stuff, so it’s better to keep it locked than to find out your favourite shirt (or anything else from your bag) is gone.
  6. Keep your shoes out of sight. Similar to the last point, people do often steal shoes, although no one knows why. So if you’ve got nice shoes, keep them under the bed or out of sight at night.
  7. Don’t ever let someone into your room without the code/card/key. A common tactic thiefs use is to knock on the door until you open it, and use an excuse like “my card isn’t opening the door” or “I left my key in the room”. They come in, take a bed, wait until people are gone, and go searching for things to steal. Unfortunately this plays on your sense of guilt, because the longer someone knocks on the door, the worse you feel if you just ignore it. But don’t feel guilty. If they have a problem, they can just go down to reception and get it sorted. If they’re genuine, they’ll appreciate that you’re keeping the room safe by not letting strangers in. If they’re dodgy, they’ll eventually give up. The easiest way to face this is just to avoid opening the door until they’re gone, that way you don’t have to awkwardly deal with someone pressuring you into letting them into the room.
  8. Don’t be afraid to talk to reception. If something feels wrong or you don’t trust someone in your room, don’t be afraid to talk to reception to see if you can move to another room. Your safety should be your first priority.

Following these tips should give you the best chance of protecting your gear, but bad things can still happen. Stay alert and keep your wits about you.

If you’ve got any additional tips or ideas, let me know in the comments and I’ll keep this article up to date with the best information.